It’s a long season.
Think about just how long 162 games is. That’s about 10 NFL seasons. It’s roughly two seasons worth of games in the NHL and the NBA. It’s four college basketball seasons for a team that goes to the NCAA title game. It’s long enough for a woman to get pregnant at the start and be in her third trimester when it ends. You get the idea. Because of the length of the season, teams tend to lose a lot of games. Last season, the Royals had the best record in the American League and lost 67 games. In the last 15 seasons, the New England Patriots have lost 62 games. Baseball is different.
And with that, sometimes games like yesterday happen for the Royals. They probably played well enough to win, and they definitely pitched well enough to win, but they didn’t. A ball that got through a Gold Glover’s legs (the strike three that reached base) and a ball that got just under a Gold Glover’s glove (the triple in the eighth) ultimately turned a 2-1 Royals victory into a 3-2 Royals loss. It’s a game that stings because it probably should have been a win, but it happens.
If you’re a fan of baseball and have a favorite team, that’s going to happen more than once during the season. There are going to be games your favorite team loses that they just shouldn’t lose. On the flip side, there are games your favorite team is going to win that they just have no business winning.
That leads me to how the Royals are doing so far this season. A lot of people believe that every team will lose 54 games and every team will win 54 games. That leaves an extra 54 games that determines who the good teams are and who the bad teams are. Obviously, there will very occasionally be a team to win more than 108 games and very occasionally a team will win 53 or less, but for the most part, this holds up. In fact, only nine times has a team not won at least 54 and lost at least 54 in a season during a 162-game campaign.
The way I see it, the AL Central can be had with 90 wins. Even if you believe the division is improved significantly, that should lead to a decrease in the champion’s win total because of the idea that the teams will beat up on each other. So using 90 wins as a barometer, that means the Royals will need to go 36-18 in that middle 54.
So far this season, I view the Royals as having won six games that are part of the 54 they’d win no matter what. I see them having lost three games they were never going to win. And that leaves three games that could have gone either way. Yesterday’s game was the first of those three the Royals have lost, which puts them at 2-1. That’s also on pace for 36-18.
It’s human nature to live and die with every pitch and every game of the baseball season, but it’s such a long season that you simply can’t do that. Another old axiom is to win two-thirds of your home games and go .500 on the road. So far, the Royals are 4-1 at home (80 percent) and 4-3 on the road (a .571 winning percentage).
Let’s look at that 4-3 stretch for a second. If the Royals win four out of every seven games, they’ll wake up at the end of the season with 92 or 93 wins. So that’s pretty good, too. Of course, if they win four out of every five games, they’ll end the year with about 130 wins, which is better, and would totally destroy the idea that every team loses 54 games.
My point here is that any way you slice the beginning of the Royals season, it’s been a success. They opened the home schedule by sweeping a division rival. Then they went to the house of arguably the most talented team in the league an took three of four. They had a little hiccup over the weekend, but they’re still 8-4, which, by the way, is a 108-win pace. No, I don’t think the Royals are going to win 108 games, but that’s just another way to show they’re certainly on track to do what they need to in order to get back to the postseason.
But it’s also worth mentioning that not everything is perfect. The pitching has been good enough that you could argue the Royals should be 10-2 or even 11-1. The offense has let the team down many times this year, scoring just about 3.6 runs per game. A lot of the ire toward the offense from the fans seems to be surrounding the team striking out more than we’ve grown accustomed to. The Royals have struck out in 21.1 percent of their plate appearances, which is considerably higher than the 15.9 percent mark they posted last year. It’s also just the 19th highest rate in baseball, so that puts a little perspective on it.
So yeah, the offense needs to get better if the Royals hope to go on a run. I don’t think it’s especially fair to expect the pitching to post a 2.89 ERA all season long. Their 3.73 FIP says that ERA number may not last forever. I also think that bullpen roles will continue to be somewhat fluid over the next couple weeks. I’m certainly a Joakim Soria believer, even though many aren’t, but I think Kelvin Herrera should be the last line before Wade Davis. I also think Danny Duffy’s role may increase as he continues to show good results out of the bullpen.
But even with all that, things will settle down. I expect the offense will pick things up soon. There’s an awful lot of slumping going on in this lineup. The hope is that the offense picks it up when the pitching regresses a little. It’s a long year. These things ebb and flow.
I’m not sitting here saying that a game in April isn’t that important. Wins in April are worth the same as wins in September. They’re all important. They may be even more important early in the year. If the Royals hadn’t built such a huge cushion early, they may have been in trouble with their rough September, but since they did build that cushion and get those wins, they could withstand it all. What I am saying is that sometimes games end up disappointing. Sometimes losses end up as wins.
Until I see something to prove otherwise, the Royals are a good baseball team. Maybe even one of the four or five best baseball teams. A two-game losing streak and a tough loss doesn’t change that. You know why? Because it’s a long season.